15 Wildest Far Side Comics About Bears
14 mins read

15 Wildest Far Side Comics About Bears


  • The Far Side regularly portrayed a thriving, if absurd, animal kingdom, including regularly featuring bears, who tended to steal the spotlight in darkly comedic situations, as if they were stealing a picnic basket.
  • The bears in Gary Larson’s strips were part of his deft critique human behavior, often finding themselves in hilarious yet ominous scenarios, as they challenged human supremacy.
  • Larson’s use of bears in
    Far Side
    strips showcased their opportunistic nature, while highlighting the absurdity of their interactions with humans, as well as their tragic encounters with hunters.



The Far Side became one of the most beloved syndicated comic strips of all time, thanks in large part to its absurd depiction of a thriving animal kingdom, including regular appearances of bears. Often, bears and humans were depicted as locked in a mortal struggle, with alternatively posing a significant threat to the other, and vice versa – resulting in some of Far Side’s most equally dark and hilarious installments.

Gary Larson’s Far Side was equally well known for its acerbic assessment of the human condition and its sympathetic treatment of animals. In many cases, the strip was at its best when it combined these two things – lampooning human behavior by depicting animals engaging in inherently goofy human situations, while also making it clear that humankind’s ascendancy over the other species of the Earth is more precarious than most people would like to think. This ongoing project frequently found its greatest articulation through panels featuring bears, making them worth revisiting as part of a wider retrospective on all things Far Side.

Writer/artist Gary Larson’s The Far Side ran in syndication from 1980 to 1995. These strips are taken from between the years 1983 to 1986, which proved to be the comedic high point of Larson’s use of bears.


10 Funniest Far Side Comics Starring Apes

The Far Side’s absurd world depicted a thriving animal kingdom, with apes & gorillas of all sizes appearing in many of Gary Larson’s funniest strips.

15 These Far Side Bears Have Nothing Left To Lose But Their Chains

First Published: June 8, 1983

Far Side, circus bears realize their muzzles slip right off

Among the funniest Far Side strips starring bears is this one, in which a pair of circus bears realize how little is keeping them in captivity.Well hey…,” one bear says to the other, holding its muzzle in its paws, “these things just snap right off.” In the background, a human trainer leads another bear by its own muzzle, as it peddles a unicycle. Often, part of what makes a Far Side strip so funny, or dark – or in this case, both – is imagining what comes immediately after. In this case, the answer is likely: carnage.

14 Gary Larson Depicts The Dangers Of Taking A Wrong Turn

First Published: September 6, 1983

Far Side, bears lost in the city afraid they will be shot

The Far Side was often at its best when taking things out of their familiar context, and putting them somewhere they don’t belong.

In this Far Side panel, Gary Larson depicts two bears standing conspicuously on a city street, as the humans walking by eyeball them suspiciously.The Far Side was often at its best when taking things out of their familiar context, and putting them somewhere they don’t belong. This strip is a great example – notably, it is also one where there is a level of self-awareness about being out of place, as the bears here worry that they are in danger. As one of them grimly assesses: “It’s probably just a matter of time before someone decides to shoot us.

13 The Anderson Brothers Tragic Fate Is A Reminder: Stay Away From Baby Bears

First Published: November 2, 1983

Far Side, foolish human kids playing with bear cub as mama bear approaches in background

The composition of this Far Side panel is notable for the way it contributes to its dark humor. Immediately, the reader’s eye is drawn to the two human kids playing catch with a bear cub. It might not be until absorbing the caption that the reader’s attention is drawn to the mama bear approaching in the background. And no one ever heard from the Anderson brothers again,” the caption explains, as readers realize that the looming adult bear means business, and the brothers are absolutely doomed for their manhandling of the cub.

12 A Twisted Far Side Sequel To “Goldilocks”

First Published: December 15, 1983

Far Side, three bears with their heads on the mantle

Bears often got the better of hunters in Far Side strips, but unfortunately, that was not the case here, as the three bears from Goldilocks are shown to have been slain, with their heads mounted above their killer’s mantle.The first two gave me trouble,” the hunter explains to a guest,”but not that little bear…I bagged him juuuuuuuuust right.” Gary Larson often delighted in twisting classic folk and fairy tales to his own comedic whims, with this being a prominent, if particularly bleak, example.

11 Nobody Likes A Know-It-All

First Published: January 23, 1984

Far Side, bear makes fun of his friend for calling a rifle a thunderstick

Thunderstick? You actually said, Thunderstick?” one bear razzes another in this panel, for not being familiar with firearms. “That, my friend, is a Winchester thirty-aught six.” The joke here, of course, is twofold. On the one hand, a wild animal shouldn’t be expected to know much about guns. More than that, however, this panel lampoons the common human interaction in which someone with knowledge of a topic makes someone else feel inadequate for not having the same familiarity. The inherent silliness of feeling superior in contexts like this is emphasized by setting this comic in the wild, with bears as its focus.

10 An Unrepentant Hunter Refuses To Squeal

First Published: April 24, 1984

Far Side, bears interrogating a hunter tied to a tree

When it came to hunting for sport, Gary Larson firmly came down on the side of the hunted, time and again.

When it came to hunting for sport, Gary Larson firmly came down on the side of the hunted, time and again. Few strips illustrate Larson’s pro-bear stance as perfectly, or hilariously, as this one, which features a group of bears interrogating a hunter that they’ve captured and tied to a tree. The caption portrays the hunter as a stereotypical villain, laughing in the bears’ faces and proclaiming, “do what youwill to me,” but that he’ll “never talk,” and that the bears cannot stop the waves of hunters that will follow him.


10 Wildest Far Side Comics Set in Courtroom Scenes

Gary Larson’s Far Side featured a number of dramatic courtroom scene, which proved to be one of the strip’s most underrated reoccurring motifs.

9 Gary Larson Delivers Another PSA: Stay Away From Caves

First Published: September 18, 1984

Far Side, bear playing in a pile of human bones

This panel is certainly one of Gary Larson’s most brutal Far Side strips, depicting a bear entertaining its cubs by putting on a puppet show using two human skulls, while sitting on a pile of bones. The mama bear mimics the final moments of the two slain hunters, making them sound especially silly, as one seemingly asked, “hey Bob, think there are any bears in that old cave?” while the other suggested they “take a look,” leading to their gruesome demise, and the delight of these two cubs.

8 Far Side’s Bears Try Out A Classic Robbery Tactic

First Published: December 22, 1984

Far Side, bears attempting to hijack a grub truck

This Far Side panel hilariously conflates bears with highwaymen, robbers who are known for hijacking the contents of trucks. Driving through a dark, wooded area at night, the delivery drivers for “Bob’s Honey, Berries, & Grubs!” come across what they suspect is a trap, as one bear lays prone in the road, while another holds up its hands, seemingly signaling for help. As the viewer will notice, another bear hides just out of sight of the road – proving that this is, in fact, an ambush.

7 The Far Side Delivers Some True Words Of Wisdom

First Published: January 23, 1985

Far Side, man playing cards with a bear declares: "never trust a grizzly"

This is by far one of the most absurd Far Side bear strips, and as a result, one of the most hilarious.

This is by far one of the most absurd Far Side bear strips, and as a result, one of the most hilarious. Two men sit in a cabin playing cards with a bear, only for one of them to realize that their animal opponent has been “dealing from the bottom of the deck.” As he brandishes a pistol, one of the humans delivers the genius punchline of the comic: “My papa always said, ‘never trust a grizzly.‘” Absurd as it may be, it is also worth asking why this man agreed to play cards with a bear in the first place.

6 Gary Larson Depicts Bears As The Ultimate Opportunists

First Published: October 18, 1985

Far Side, bears discuss stealing hub caps off car after killing driver

Human beings often found themselves in trouble with bears in Far Side strips, usually as a result of entering the bears’ territory without being prepared. Here, however, the bears seem to have actively targeted a human being. As one bear literally shakes the victim down, hilariously holding the man upside down in the right corner of the frame, the other points at the wheels of the person’s car, noting: “These are good hubcabs…if we don’t take ’em, it’s a cinch some other bears will. The humor, naturally, comes from the question of why any bears would need hubcabs.

5 Bears Keep The Forest Clean

First Published: November 12, 1985

Far Side, "garbage dumps of the wild"

Sometimes, Far Side panels are laugh-out-loud, outrageously funny. Other times, they leave the reader puzzling over the meaning of the strip – something Gary Larson very much did by design.

Sometimes, Far Side panels are laugh-out-loud, outrageously funny. Other times, they leave the reader puzzling over the meaning of the strip – something Gary Larson very much did by design. This falls more into the latter category, though that is precisely what makes it funny. Here, a bear is depicted carrying a picnic basket toward a “garbage dump of the wild,” a place where the remnants of humanity’s intrusion on nature are apparently collected. The humor comes from the idea that bears are better at keeping their habitat free of junk than interloping human beings.

4 It’s Always Funny Until Some Bear Gets Hurt

First Published: January 15, 1986

Far Side bear with shoot me sign stuck to its butt

Sometimes, pranksters don’t realize when one of their jokes has gone too far – which seems to be the case here, as one unfortunate bear has had a “shoot me” sign stuck to its back. What makes this Far Side strip particularly funny is the way one of the other bears is shown looking nervously off to the side of the frame – suggesting this bear knows about the “shoot me” sign, and is nervous to be standing in such proximity to its pranked cohort, in case a hunter does appear from the woods to take the shot.

3 “The Woods” Is A Very Exclusive Establishment

First Published: January 14, 1986

Far Side, human is discouraged from going in a bear bar

Far Side strips often used its anthropomorphic animal characters as proxies for humans and human behavior – and in many cases, this tendency was at its funniest when these talking animals interacted with actual humans. In this case, a hiker tries to enter a bear bar, only to be discouraged by the ursine employee at the entrance, who explains that not only is the establishment closed, but that its patrons, “don’t like your kind in here anyway.” This puts a brilliant twist on the trope of tourists treading into sketchy territory in an unfamiliar locale, endangering themselves without realizing it.

2 Far Side’s Animals Get A Much-Needed Half-Time Pep Talk

First Published: February 14, 1986

Far Side, bear coaching other animals to go fight against humans

What makes this Far Side strip particularly amusing is its use of a sports metaphor to envision a group of animals who are facing the threat of being hunted to extinction. A bear, in the role of coach, talks to a group of battered and beaten animals, including a deer, an alligator, and several smaller forest creatures, asking with frustration: “You want them to shoot us and trap us into oblivion?” Instead, the bear suggests that, “we’re supposed to be the animals, so let’s get back out there and act like it.”

1 A Pet Bear Is A Serious Responsibility

First Published: October 4, 1986

Far Side, man with a hook hand talks about raising his pet bear

In addition to being one of the funniest Far Side strips featuring a bear, this also ranks among Gary Larson’s most visually dense jokes. From the look of surprise on the visitor’s face, to the speaker’s hook-hand – emphasizing the toll of raising a bear as a pet – this Far Side installment rewards repeated study. Hilariously, the bear’s owner casually explains the equilibrium of their relationship, stating that he and the bear “had to get a few things straight,” and that now, “she doesn’t try to follow me into town anymore, and I don’t try to take her food bowl away till she’s done.”

  • The Far Side Comic Poster

    The Far Side

    Written and drawn by Gary Larson, The Far Side is a comic strip series that ran from December 1979 to January 1995. A worldwide hit, The Far Side explores life’s surreal side and uses a mix of humans and anthropomorphic animals. As of 2020, Gary Larson decided to pick his pencil back up again and has started The Far Side up, circulating the comics on his official website.

    Gary Larson

    Gary Larson

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